IBM Blue Gene/Q Supercomputer Wrangles Biomedical Big Data in Poland

IBM announced that an IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer known as "Nostromo" is being used to process biomedical big data in Poland.

IBM announced that The Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modeling, University of Warsaw (ICM) of Poland is using an IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer to gather and process biomedical big data.

Code-named Nostromo, the IBM machine is the most powerful single-architecture supercomputer in Poland, and it is supporting one of the country's key biomedical and biotechnological research initiatives called the Centre for Pre-clinical Research and Technology (CePT).

More than 500 life sciences and biomedical researchers, physicians and students from a consortium led by The Medical University of Warsaw (WUM) and consisting of three universities and seven research centers of the Polish Academy of Sciences, will use the supercomputer and its supporting e-infrastructure to gain further insight into chronic diseases.

"CePT, a EUR 100 million project, aims to support Poland's transition towards more preventive and patient-centric health care," Dr. Robert Sot, director of CePT at Warsaw University, said in a statement. "The project will allow the medical community to provide a more holistic approach and open collaboration for the development of innovative treatments and drugs that will improve patients' quality of life over the long term."

IBM said national estimates indicate that over one-fourth of Poland's aging population has developed at least one or, very often, more chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory conditions, stroke and neurological disorders. Early detection and timely diagnosis of these diseases translates into well-targeted and optimized health care, as well as improved quality of a patient's life. Similar demands could stimulate the need to carry out clinical and pre-clinical tests covering 3 to 5 million Polish citizens, and generate massive volumes of valuable health data, which can, in turn, be used by laboratories, IBM said.

Nostromo will help scientists process up to 16 terabytes of big data per one sequence by running compute-intensive simulations at the speed of 209.7 trillion operations per second (TFLOPS). The supercomputer will use algorithms moving beyond the "routine" sequencing of human or animal genomes to tackle more complex processes that will reveal the rare variants in human genetics—for example, those that cause predispositions to Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes, Down syndrome and more. By understanding what prevents protein molecules, which build and maintain human bodies, from folding up properly and triggering a disease, scientists will be able to develop a new drug or treatment.

"The process of developing and generating a new drug or treatment normally takes up to three years, and costs have nearly quadrupled in the past 15 years," Prof. Marek Niezgodka, director of ICM, said in a statement. "With Nostromo, we expect to increase the simulation speed which will bring us much closer to the era of "personalized medicine," when preventative approaches can be tailored to a specific condition."

Nostromo currently ranks number 143 on the list and number 9 on list of most energy-efficient supercomputers. The system was installed by IBM Poland and Qumak SA, an IBM business partner.

"IBM delivered the most powerful single architecture supercomputer for the ICM of Poland," Ales Bartunek, country general manager for IBM Poland and Baltics, said in a statement. "Nostromo is able to process up to 16TB of big data per one sequence by running simulations at the speed of 210 teraflops. We are confident that the Power-based Blue Gene/Q has the potential to save years of research and help scientists take health care in Poland to the next level."

The IBM Blue Gene/Q system, based on IBM's Power architecture, delivers the horsepower to process big data and to provide faster isolation and analysis of the genes and proteins behind the most common chronic lifestyle diseases. It can also be used to simulate new drug development. IBM said Blue Gene/Q is the next evolutionary step on the company's high-performance computing road map to deliver ultra-scalability and ultra-reliability in a power-efficient, space-saving platform.